Vermont vinegar and vittles


by Megan J. Humphrey, Shelburne Orchards

Megan J. Humphrey holds a degree in social work with a concentration in Gerontology at UVM. She now organizes the events and oversees the marketing at Shelburne Orchards. Look for her new monthly column that will provide an insight into what’s happening at the orchard and in the greater farming community.

Like many other farms, Shelburne Orchards is diversifying. We used to just grow apples and make cider doughnuts, but now we also focus on creating “value-added products.” Our most recent venture at Shelburne Orchards has been the addition of unpasteurized cider vinegar, which is produced through a fermentation process where cider turns from alcohol to vinegar. Terry Hotaling, a longtime year-round employee at the orchard, built a separate Vinegar House because of the possibility of the smell and spores affecting cider, brandy, and other food products. The vinegar’s now been aged for two years in oak barrels and is ready to be consumed.

Besides drinking a splash of unpasteurized vinegar every day, Shelburne Orchards owner Nick Cowles has been perfecting some vinegar reduction sauces. After careful consideration, he describes his sauces as “spicy, somewhat sweet and tangy, but not vinegary.” Once he’s satisfied with the final outcome, we’ll post some on the website.

There is an ongoing discussion about the value of pasteurized vs. unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Pasteurization exposes a food product to a higher temperature that destroys the culture (called “the mother” which lives on the surface) and certain microorganisms that can cause disease or promotes unwanted fermentation and spoiling. Unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains the intact enzymes formed through the fermentation process. These living enzymes are largely responsible for the healing and restorative properties of vinegar. Though filtered vinegar is more appealing to the eye, the highest quality is left unfiltered and unpasteurized. Nutritionally more potent than the pasteurized varieties, it is also typically more expensive. At the orchard, a half-gallon costs $25 and 375 ml costs $6.

Vinegar has many additional uses besides helping one’s body to maintain a healthy pH balance: as a hair conditioner, flea repellent, aftershave, sunburn relief, tooth whitener, and household cleaner. Because it reduces mucus and sinus congestion, it can help with allergies. Vinegar can even help to fade age spots.

As for the orchard, the season is about to get underway! The first event of the year will be on Tuesday, Aug. 20. Shelburne Orchards is honored to be part of the “Outstanding in the Field” (OITF) North American Tour this year. Chef and artist Jim Denevan created “farmer dinners” in 1998 at Gabriella Café in Santa Cruz, Calif. and eventually founded OITF. OITF has now crossed North America four times with dinners in all sorts of settings on farms around the country.

The ticket fee includes a reception with wine and appetizers, four seated courses with wine pairings, all gratuities, producer discussions, and a tour of the farm. First, there will be appetizers and wine. Next, Cowles will lead a tour around the orchard until we find the dinner table—voila! Finally, Chef Eric Warnstedt of Hen of the Wood in Waterbury will provide a delectable dinner. Local food producers, friendship, a very special meal, and summertime will be celebrated right here in Shelburne.

Reservations are still available for the orchard’s first-ever OITF dinner which will begin at 3 pm. Tickets are $190 per person for this culinary adventure. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

Watch for future monthly installments that will discuss the variety of apples grown at Shelburne and other local orchards, as well as the evolution of Shelburne Orchards. For more information visit or like Shelburne Orchards on Facebook. Happy summertime!

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